Proofpoint’s new research has found that the top universities in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom are lagging on basic cyber security measures, subjecting students, staff and stakeholders to higher risks of email-based impersonation attacks.
According to Proofpoint’s analysis, universities in the United States are most at risk with the poorest levels of protection, followed by the United Kingdom, then Australia.
Conducted in May 2022 using data from QS Top Universities, the Proofpoint analysis also found that 97 per cent of the top 10 universities across each country are not taking appropriate measures to proactively block attackers from spoofing their email domains, increasing the risk of email fraud. These findings are based on domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance (DMARC) analysis of the top 10 universities in each country.
DMARC is an email validation protocol designed to protect domain names from being misused by cyber criminals. It authenticates the sender’s identity before allowing a message to reach its intended destination. DMARC has three levels of protection – monitor, quarantine and reject – with reject being the most secure for preventing suspicious emails from reaching the inbox.
Steve Moros, senior director, Advanced Technology Group, Asia-Pacific and Japan at Proofpoint, explains that the rapid shift to online learning has increased the risk or being targeted by cyber criminals.
“Higher education institutions hold masses of sensitive personal and financial data, perhaps more so than any industry outside healthcare.
“This, unfortunately, makes these institutions a highly attractive target for cyber criminals.
“The pandemic and rapid shift to remote learning has further heightened the cyber security challenges for tertiary education institutions and opened them up to significant risks from malicious email-based cyber attacks, such as phishing,” Moros said.